1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

How Coronavirus costs the Bundesliga big

March 15, 2020

The coronavirus pandemic has put the business side of Bundesliga football in a precarious spot. A premature end to the season could cost the clubs €750 million ($836 million).

Image: imago images/S. Simon

There's no denying that health comes first. Nevertheless, the disruption to the Bundesliga season as a result of the coronavirus does have financial components. Should the football season be canceled entirely, some clubs could be fighting for their lives.

How much is in a game?

Should the season end after Matchday 25, the 36 professional teams in the first and second division in the Bundesliga are looking at a potential loss of €750 million ($836 million). The figure is a total of missing gate receipts, lost sponsorship money and outstanding television money. Should the season not continue and matchday 25 indeed prove the final game, €370 million of TV money from the last nine games would be missing. For a full season of 34 league games, clubs get a total of €1.4 billion.

Broadcasters who have the rights to the top two divisions could claim compensation from the German football league (DFL), the company that governs Germany's top two divisions, due to not being able to deliver their product. "It's a matter of private contractual agreements that are understandably not for the public," was Sky's response to a DPA inquiry.

The problem is that the league has no insurance for the lost TV income, one that could come into play were the season to be canceled due to the coronavirus. As a result, professional football's first aim is to avoid collapse.

Who is concerned?

Oddly enough, the bosses of the two clubs who are most likely to manage the absence of millions were the ones who were the most vocal. Borussia Dortmund's CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke spoke of "the biggest crisis" in German football. Before him, Bayern Munich's CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge spoke in favor of continuing with the originally planned games behind closed doors on Matchday 26 this weekend.

Biggest voices: Karl-Heinz Rummenigge (left) and Hans Joachim Watzke
Biggest voices: Karl-Heinz Rummenigge (left) and Hans Joachim WatzkeImage: Getty Images/Bongarts/A. Hassenstein

"If this money was absent, it would be expected that many smaller and mid-sized clubs would have financial problems," Rummenigge said.

Where could help come from?

Clubs have been advised that after a manageable break, the Bundesliga season will continue and somehow be finished by June 30. There are talks about the introduction of a football fund, although this remains a skeptical solution among league circles. Mainly because the clubs, the ones who are already short on money, would have to source the money for such a fund.

Will the Euros be held this summer or moved to next year? UEFA must decide soon
Will the Euros be held this summer or moved to next year? UEFA must decide soonImage: picture-alliance/dpa/C. Charisius

Will the Euros be pushed to next year?

This is a decision UEFA, Europe's football federation, must make. The league's hope rests on the summer's international tournament being moved. That would allow for more time to finish the Bundesliga. The Euros were planned to start on June 12. Whether the tournament can take place as expected or whether it will be moved to next year remains open, though. UEFA have a crisis meeting on Tuesday, and a decision on the tournament is expected. English newspaper The Telegraph released a report on Saturday saying UEFA were also considering a Euro in December 2020.

Should events with large crowds also be banned in the long term, then, if authorities agreed, the season might be able to be finished behind closed doors.

This approach has its own drawback, though. As Paderborn proved, Bundesliga players and staff are just as susceptible to the virus. Should entire teams need to be quarantined, then further stoppages to the playing scheduled would be expected.

What next?

The general assembly of the pro clubs is on Monday in Frankurt, and sporting and financial questions are expected to be addressed. How will things continue after April, if the coronavirus has been contained by then? Are more games behind closed doors on the cards? Will the season be extended into June? Will the entire season be canceled despite severe financial consequences, lost titles and promotion dreams? Given that the interests of each of the 36 teams are so varied, it won't be easy to find a solution.

Will there be more games behind closed doors in the Bundesliga?
Will there be more games behind closed doors in the Bundesliga?Image: imago images/Nordphoto/Ewert

Will games without fans continue in the Bundesliga?

Should games behind closed doors be the order of the day, then there is likely to be disapproval from the side of fans, who largely would rather have no games than games behind closed doors. From a sporting perspective, there are also solutions that might not please everyone. Should a majority of three-quarters of the clubs agree, they could name an honorary champion. Or, the decision will be made that the 2020 season ended without a champion in German football. What about those clubs chasing promotion or trying to avoid relegation? Would the clubs in 17 and 18 in the Bundesliga still be relegated, or would only some clubs get promoted but none relegated? For an increased number of teams in the first-division, a vast majority at the general assembly would have to agree.

Decisions in this regard are not expected on Monday, though. First the most pressing questions have to be answered, so that any other eventualities could even be possible.